Mill fireball sparked a second inferno

AROUND 300 people were evacuated from their homes after a blazing mill collapsed in the heart of a residential area.

It took 200 firefighters more than 20 hours to contain the fire after it spread from the derelict building to several other premises nearby.

Police described the blaze as one of the biggest Halifax had seen in years – and miraculously no one was hurt.

The fire began in an empty mill on an industrial site between Pellon Lane and Battinson Road, Halifax, on Saturday.

Residents of neighbouring terraces gathered to watch as it was engulfed by flames and caved in.

Akeel Ahmed, of Little Baines Street, was among the first to dial 999 at 3.25pm on Saturday.

The 28-year-old said: "At that time it was just smoking but about 10 minutes after that it went ballistic."

Amateur photographer Gary Delaney spotted the smoke plume from the M62 with his son Ross, eight, and drove to the scene to capture some spectacular shots of the first building burning.

The 52-year-old, from Oldham, said: "When we first got there we saw flames licking up.Then it collapsed. It was very dramatic.It produced a massive ball of flame."

The fire then spread to the roof of another mill 200 metres away on the corner of Battinson Road and William Street.

The blaze ravaged the top two storeys, then raged through a basement running under other premises on the site, including Halifax Sell-It Centre and Denholt Industrial Fabrications.

A number of gas canisters were removed from the Denholt premises before the basement – used for storage by a furniture company– caught fire.

Police chief inspector Mark Allsop said: "It's a huge complex and probably one of the biggest fires in Halifax for many years."

Pellon Lane was closed while firefighters battled the flames using 28 fire engines, 10 support vehicles and three aerial platforms.

A police helicopter was sent to take aerial photos of the fire and ambulance crews were also on standby at the scene.

Residents were told to pack their bags amid fears the flames would spread further, and many spent the night with relatives and friends.

Calderdale Council's emergency planning team set up a rest centre at North Bridge Leisure Centre on Saturday, and the Madni mosque also provided shelter.

Firefighters had contained the blaze at around 3pm yesterday, but were still fighting the fire last night.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Craig McIntosh: "The crews have been working in punishing and dangerous conditions for over 20 hours and they have done a first class job."

Most residents have now been allowed to return home, but around 50 people were still displaced yesterday.

Some will have to wait until demolition workers arrive to make the area safe.

Pellon Lane partially reopened yesterday but was still shut off from Marshway to the junction with Queen's Road last night.

Halifax Street Angels helped police direct traffic, and joined forces with the Salvation Army to make sandwiches for emergency service staff.

Tesco, Asda, McDonalds and the Fairtrade Cafe all donated refreshments.

Police and fire chiefs said they would be investigating the blaze once the area is safe.

Chief Insp Allsop said: "Our CID are working with the fire investigation team to find out the cause of the fire and how it spread to a building nearly 200 metres away.

"There was a reasonable breeze blowing in that direction but we'll certainly look at how it's managed to get down to that second building without touching anything in between, initially."